Writing in the current issue of In These Times, American History scholar Theo Anderson follows the modern political conservative movement's rise to power from the founding of the Heritage Foundation in 1973 through Donald Trump's inauguration in 2017.
It is a story of an ideological movement dedicated to the creation of "an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society flourish." (Heritage Foundation mission statement)
In 1980, that movement rode initially to White House power on the coattails of an amiable movie actor, Ronald Reagan, while picking up crucial political allies among evangelical Christians.
Evangelical Christians played a major role in elevating a non-religious Reagan to the White House, even as they helped toss out one of their own, a born-again Southern Baptist, President Jimmy Carter.
Co-founders of the Heritage Foundation in 1973, Paul Weyrich (above) and Edwin Feulner (below), were funded lavishly by beer baron Joseph Coors.
Many Evangelical Christians frown on consumption of alcohol beverages, except, it appears, when profits from those beverages fund their political ambitions.
Weyrich and Feulner were shrewd political operatives who knew their targets: Americans who were rich, and Americans who believed they should be rich. Both targets believed in liberty for themselves, less so for "others."
Anderson writes that "Weyrich's dogged institution-building was driven by a burning vision: Organize evangelical Christians into a powerful voting bloc, reinvent the Republican Party and radically reconstruct the nation."
"In the late 1970s, Weyrich used anger over encroachments on 'religious liberty' -- namely, the liberty to deny African Americans entrance to religious private schools -- to mobilize the Christian Right. His efforts propelled Reagan to victory in 1980 via another organization Weyrich cofounded, the Moral Majority.
"Weyrich, who belonged to a Catholic sect, spoke a language of personal responsibility that resonated with evangelicals. He believed that individualism was the heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition and its great nemesis was the growth of government."
Heritage had long been knee-deep in the religious liberty crusade of the Christian Right. It built a successful on-line publication, The Daily Signal, which claims to have more than 2 million readers
The Daily Signal looks for "what it considers outrageous government intrusions on Christians' rights, especially their right to discriminate against LGBT people. These stories often involve the travails of fundamentalist bakers, florists and wedding planners."
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